GUID­ING LIGHT: CA­REER COUN­SEL­LORS

GREAT LEARN­ING EN­VI­RON­MENTS

The Australian Education Reporter - - FRONT PAGE - EMMA DAVIES

THE Ca­reer In­dus­try Coun­cil of Aus­tralia (CICA) es­ti­mates that 800,000 stu­dents are set to grad­u­ate high school over the next three years. The pres­sure is on to make sure our youth are equipped to make well-in­formed life and ca­reer choices af­ter school.

Re­search re­leased by CICA mid-2017 in­di­cated that ca­reer prac­ti­tion­ers need more time and re­sources to pro­vide ad­e­quate sup­port to stu­dents. Now, a much-needed Vic­to­rian Par­lia­men­tary In­quiry is un­der­way to de­ter­mine how best to de­liver ca­reer ad­vice in schools.

Cur­rently the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment’s Na­tional Ca­reer Ed­u­ca­tion Strat­egy in­cludes an in­vest­ment of $3 mil­lion and the Aus­tralian Blueprint for Ca­reer De­vel­op­ment; a frame­work for de­sign­ing, im­ple­ment­ing, and eval­u­at­ing ca­reer de­vel­op­ment pro­grams.

This strat­egy aims to de­velop skills, planned learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ences, strengthen school-em­ployer col­lab­o­ra­tions and qual­ity of in­for­ma­tion – but it may not be enough.

In Vic­to­ria, ca­reer ad­vi­sors can be ei­ther lead­ing teach­ers, class­room teach­ers, or ed­u­ca­tion sup­port but there is no re­quire­ment for a spe­cific ca­reers ad­vi­sor.

Many schools may not have the bud­get to em­ploy a ded­i­cated ca­reers spe­cial­ist.

Mis­sion Aus­tralia’s The Youth Survey Re­port (2017) showed that while par­ents have the most in­flu­ence on a stu­dent’s ca­reer choices, ca­reer ad­vi­sors have a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact.

The re­port also stated that the most ef­fec­tive forms of ca­reer de­vel­op­ment were in­ter­views with a ca­reers ad­vi­sor, work ex­pe­ri­ence, vo­ca­tional ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing, and univer­sity, TAFE or other RTO open days.

But with less than half of Aus­tralia’s school ca­reer prac­ti­tion­ers em­ployed full time the ques­tion re­mains – what time and re­sources are avail­able to im­ple­ment th­ese ac­tiv­i­ties?

Suzanne Cory High School (VIC) is the per­fect ex­am­ple of a prac­ti­cal and ef­fi­cient ca­reers ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram em­ploy­ing a ded­i­cated ca­reers spe­cial­ist.

Prin­ci­pal Colin Axup be­lieves schools are ob­li­gated to pro­vide ad­e­quate ca­reers guid­ance for stu­dents.

“You not only need to have the hu­man ca­pac­ity – the staff – to pro­vide the guid­ance, but you also need to pro­vide the time for the guid­ance,” Mr Axup said.

“The school has a re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­sure that there are ca­reers prac­ti­tion­ers avail­able for stu­dents to ac­cess in a timely man­ner.”

Mr Axup went to the par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee in­quiry as part of the Vic­to­rian As­so­ci­a­tion of State Sec­ondary Prin­ci­pals and said he was asked about the dif­fi­culty of get­ting ca­reers prac­ti­tion­ers into schools.

“I took the ap­proach of grow your own – we iden­ti­fied peo­ple who had the in­ter­est and the ap­ti­tude for the task and then gave them the aca­demic train­ing,” he said.

Cur­rently there is no spe­cific qual­i­fi­ca­tion re­quired for ca­reers ad­vi­sors in gov­ern­ment schools, and while the Vic­to­rian State Gov­ern­ments study grant pro­gram, which sub­sidised the costs of ca­reers ad­vi­sors ob­tain­ing a ter­tiary qual­i­fi­ca­tion, ended in 2014, Mr Axup be­lieves it’s worth the in­vest­ment.

“Both Bren­dan (who is a qual­i­fied teacher but not em­ployed as one) and Lena our ca­reers prac­ti­tion­ers are do­ing, or have nearly com­pleted, the RMIT Grad­u­ate Cer­tifi­cate in Ca­reers Ed­u­ca­tion and De­vel­op­ment course which is prob­a­bly the best one to do be­cause it can be done on­line, self-paced,” he said.

Ca­reers Ad­vi­sor Bren­dan Taig said there are lots of ca­reer prac­ti­tioner sem­i­nars run by uni­ver­si­ties if se­lec­tion pro­cesses change, for ex­am­ple, but that the school needs to al­low staff to take the time to up­skill and un­der­take fur­ther train­ing.

“There’s al­ways op­por­tu­ni­ties avail­able, but the school needs to be sup­port­ive of the ca­reers prac­ti­tion­ers be­ing out of the school some­times to freshen up their skills. We’re very for­tu­nate here that we have the al­lo­ca­tions and re­sources in place to be able to do that,” he said.

The main chal­lenge for schools is re­sources for ca­reer ed­u­ca­tion; not just the time re­quired.

Prin­ci­pal Colin Axup said he had made a con­scious de­ci­sion to en­sure that the school had more than one ca­reers prac­ti­tioner in the school for stu­dents in years 9 to 12, all of whom are head­ing to­wards univer­sity.

“With 875 stu­dents one per­son was never go­ing to be enough to do it prop­erly,” he said.

The de­ci­sion was made by the school – not the ed­u­ca­tion de­part­ment or the Gov­ern­ment – to al­lo­cate re­sources for a spe­cific num­ber of funded ca­reers ad­vi­sor roles for a spe­cific num­ber of stu­dents.

“It be­comes a school de­ci­sion about the de­gree to which they pro­vide ca­reers sup­port,” Mr Axup said.

Mr Axup and Mr Taig agreed that schools needed to nav­i­gate parental in­put when pro­vid­ing ca­reers ad­vice to stu­dents.

At Suzanne Cory High School parental in­volve­ment in ca­reer path­ways are bro­ken into two.

Firstly, the school holds in­for­ma­tion ses­sions for par­ents and stu­dents to dis­cuss sub­ject choices that are en­joy­able – bas­ing sub­ject choice around the big pic­ture will prob­a­bly lead down a par­tic­u­lar ca­reer path.

Next Mr Taig com­pletes one-on-one in­ter­views with stu­dents and their par­ents, how­ever some­times par­ents can be mis­guided about a par­tic­u­lar path­way and the stu­dents are bet­ter able to ex­press them­selves on their own.

“We of­ten ask – what do you par­ents think about your de­ci­sions or ideas? Have you spo­ken to them? What could you say? Quite of­ten stu­dents say ‘mum and dad want me to do this but I don’t re­ally want to do that’,” Mr Taig said.

“It’s more about giv­ing stu­dents some tools so they can have re­ally mean­ing­ful dis­cus­sions about what their path is. In­stead of be­ing scared of hav­ing that con­ver­sa­tion, they have the re­sources and the con­fi­dence to ex­plain their rea­son­ing,” he said.

“Par­ents want what’s best for their kids and they want their kids to be happy, healthy and have a good life but they might just be a bit con­fused about what that is.”

Mr Axup said it’s a chal­lenge for schools and ca­reer ad­vi­sors to have con­ver­sa­tions with kids in year 9 be­cause they are al­ready mak­ing de­ci­sions about what they want to do, and what sub­jects they need to study to get there.

“The chal­lenge is to give them in­for­ma­tion about what the op­tions are – to dif­fuse the no­tions of what they think par­tic­u­lar ca­reers are about, or more im­por­tantly to ask them the ques­tion; why?” Mr Axup said.

“Be­cause from my per­spec­tive as a prin­ci­pal – and I will con­stantly say this to par­ents and stu­dents alike – they need to fol­low a path­way of sub­jects that they en­joy do­ing be­cause this is what they’re go­ing to be do­ing for the rest of their life,” he said.

Mr Taig be­lieves that vis­its from uni­ver­si­ties and em­ploy­ers are valu­able to help break the myths around par­tic­u­lar ca­reers.

“If they [stu­dents] can hear it from some­body who’s in a par­tic­u­lar job it prompts them to think about ca­reers they might not have con­sid­ered,” he said.

Re­cently Aus­tralia’s Chief Sci­en­tist Alan Finkel be­moaned the lack of maths and sci­ence pre­req­ui­sites for univer­sity cour­ses, sug­gest­ing that if stu­dents didn’t study a par­tic­u­lar level of maths they would, for ex­am­ple, be shut off from pur­su­ing an en­gi­neer­ing de­gree.

While a vi­able point, Mr Taig said it’s im­por­tant for kids to re­alise there is no one set path to a ca­reer and even if you study the high­est level maths it doesn’t mean you have to pur­sue that ca­reer.

“We need to ask stu­dents why it’s im­por­tant to them. That’s of­ten very con­fronting for stu­dents be­cause they don’t prac­tice re­flec­tion very much,” he said.

“It’s al­most like help­ing them to build a skill and a skill set so they can make ca­reer de­ci­sions, not just in terms of sub­ject choice but so they have good de­ci­sion mak­ing skills in life.”

While there is clearly great ben­e­fits to hav­ing a ded­i­cated ca­reers ad­vi­sor, the ques­tion comes back to the time and re­sources re­quired to im­ple­ment a school-wide ap­proach.

“From an or­gan­i­sa­tional per­spec­tive, there’s lots and lots of skills we could teach stu­dents – but when?” Mr Axup said.

“If there were 48 hours in a day and 104 weeks in a year we might just about teach every­thing that ev­ery­body wants us to teach the kids.”

With this in mind, the school sub­scribes to just-in-time as op­posed to just-in-case train­ing.

“Just-in-time is of­ten bet­ter than just-in-case be­cause if you teach some­body how to use a com­puter pro­gram and they don’t use it for the next six months, when they go to use it they will have for­got­ten,” Mr Axup said.

“I think some­times ca­reers ed­u­ca­tion is the same. If you took the in­ter­view skills process or be­ing able to write a good CV, I see that as just-in-time train­ing not just-in-case be­cause you want it to be as fresh in their minds as pos­si­ble.”

The Par­lia­men­tary In­quiry Re­port will be re­leased later this year.

“It’s more about giv­ing stu­dents some tools so they can have re­ally mean­ing­ful dis­cus­sions about what their path is.”

Suzanne Cory High School (VIC) Ca­reers Ad­vi­sor Bren­dan Taig.

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